October 26, 2021

Literature Journal

World literature news

Why Coelho is not Amado: what we know about Brazilian literature


Brazilian literature was discovered by none other than Pushkin for the Russian reader, but the real boom of its translations came in the Soviet years, when the star of Jorge Amado, who eagerly popularized other Brazilian writers, also rose up in our country. After the collapse of the USSR, the literature of this Latin American country again went into the shadows from which Paulo Coelho emerged – and, in the opinion of many, it would be better if he did not. Elena Belyakova tells about these three periods.
I was prompted to write this article by a recent publication on Gorky, which argued that Brazilian literature is practically unknown in Russia. If we talk about modern Russia, then perhaps this is true, but this was not always the case. If we analyze the entire history of Russian-Brazilian literary ties, which began in the first half of the 19th century, we can come to the conclusion that it is divided into three main periods: pre-Amadou, the period associated with the activities of Jorge Amadou, and post-Amadou.

The first period lasted 122 years and began very promisingly: in 1826 Pushkin translated a poem by the Brazilian poet Thomas Antonio Gonzaga, which is published in the collected works of Alexander Sergeevich under the title “From Portuguese” (“There the star of the dawn rose …”). But, despite such a request, Russian-Brazilian contacts were of an episodic nature, and Brazilian authors were rarely translated. Over the years, Russian readers got acquainted with the work of only eight not the best Brazilian writers, who were represented mainly by one or two small works. For a long time Brazil remained outside the sphere of Russian literary interests, and most Russian readers believed that Brazilian literature did not exist. It is interesting that even the change in the social structure of Russia in 1917 did not cause qualitative changes in Russian-Brazilian cultural relations: in the 1930s, one poem by the modernist poet Mario di Andradi, several poems and an excerpt from the novel by Otavio Brandao, one of the the founders of the Brazilian Communist Party, and the novel “Negro Ricardo” by Jose Linsa do Regu.

The situation changed dramatically in 1948 after the publication in Russian of Georges Amadou’s novel Land of Golden Fruits. This was the beginning of the second stage of Russian-Brazilian literary relations, which is completely determined by the work and political activities of Amadou. For millions of Soviet people, Jorge Amado became the symbol and embodiment of all Brazilian literature. The following facts testify to a qualitatively new level of relations at the second stage: in just 43 years, Soviet readers got acquainted with the work of 132 Brazilian writers – prose writers, poets and playwrights. All the most significant works of both classics and contemporaries who contributed to the development of Brazilian literature were translated. Now Russian readers could judge Brazilian authors not by excerpts and individual stories, but by whole novels, collections of stories, collections of poems. The most prominent authors were represented by several major works. This applies not only to the classics, founders of Brazilian literature, such as Jose di Alencar (Guarani, Iracema), Aluisiu Azevedo (Mulat, Slums), Castro Alvis (collections of Poems and Lyrics) , Machado di Assiz (Notes from the Other World, Don Casmurro, Selected Works), but also to such modern authors as Graciliano Ramus (San Bernardo, Dry Lives), Afonso Schmidt (The Campaign , “Secrets of Sao Paulo”, “Unpunished”), Eric Verissim (“Mr. Ambassador”, “The Prisoner”, “The Incident in Antares”), Jose Lins do Regu (“Cangaseiro”, “The Extinguished Fire”), Benito Barreto ( Capela dos Omens, Cafaya), Monteiro Lobatu (Order of the Yellow Woodpecker, Tales of Aunt Nastasia). Collections of stories by Milton Pedroza, Guimaraens Rosa, Ligia Telles have been released.

Brazilian drama has not been ignored either. The plays of the most famous Brazilian playwrights were published in periodicals, collections and individual publications: Guilhermo Figueiredo (Aesop, Funny Story, Don Juan), Diaz Gomis (The Vow, The Invasion, The Hero’s Cradle), Gianfrancesco Guarneri (“The Seed”), Pasquala Magno (“Tomorrow will be different”). The poetry of Brazil was presented to a somewhat lesser extent: not a single contemporary poet was awarded a separate book. However, from collections of poems in Foreign Literature, collections of poems by Brazilian poets, the reader could get acquainted with the work of Manuel Bandeira, Cecilia Meirelis, Raul Bopp, Mario de Andrade, Jorge di Lima, Vinicius de Morais, Cabral di Melo Neto and many other poets.